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WetlandsTim CraddockWest Virginia Save Our Streams Program

Most of the photos within this slide show were taken by Michelle and Tim Craddock; others were provided by NRCS and WVDNR. This slide show has Internet hyper-links throughout, which may cause some difficulty navigating from the slide show to Internet and back again. I recommend that you copy and paste the link into your browser.


What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are transitional ecosystems between terrestrial and aquatic habitats where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.

For purposes of classification, wetlands must have the following attributes

At least periodically, the land supports predominantly hydrophytes;

The substrate is mostly un-drained hydric soil; and

The substrate is non-soil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of each year.


Wetland Soils

Most wetland soils have reduced oxygen levels, which give the

soils particular characteristics.

  • Gleyed or mottled
  • Accumulation of organic matter
  • Oxidized root channels
  • Smell of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide)


Wetland Hydrology

The water must be at or near the surface at least two weeks during

the growing season.

T. Craddock

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Wetland Vegetation

Plants that occur in wetland environments are known as hydrophytes. These plants are classified according to their probability of occurrence. Several of these classification terms are described below.

Obligate Wetland Plants (OBL): Plants with a high probability (> 99%) of occurring in wetlands under natural conditions.

Facultative Wetland Plants (FACW): Plants that usually occur (67-99%) in wetlands under natural conditions.

Facultative Plants (FAC): Plants that sometimes occur (33-67%) in wetland environments under natural conditions.

For additional codes and definitions visit the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Plant Database:


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Broad Category Classification

Riverine wetlands are found in a valley or adjacent to a stream channel. They lie in the active floodplain of a river or stream and have important links to the water dynamics of the river system.

Lacustrine wetlands are associated with deep water habitats with the following characteristics: situated in a topographic depression or a dammed river channel; lacking trees, shrubs, and other persistent emergent's; total area exceeds 20 acres.

Non-tidal wetlands substantially covered by emergent's, trees, shrubs, moss/lichens, etc. Total area is less than 20 acres. Most bogs, swamps, marshes and wet meadows fall into this category.





Classification by Wetland Types

1. Swamp forest

2. Shrub swamp

3. Marsh

4. Wet Meadow

5. Bog/Fen

6. Vernal pools


Wetland Functions and Values

High Productivity: Biomass per unit area is often the highest of any ecological community

Habitat Diversity

Flood Control

Groundwater Recharge

Filtration of Nutrients


Agricultural Uses


Rare and Endangered Species


Wetland Statistics in West Virginia

Occur in less than 1% of the state’s surface area; thought to have lost about 25% since colonization by Europeans (may be higher). Nationally wetland loss has been greater than 50%.


FACW wetland plants make up a whopping 44% (187 of 471 species) of the rare, threatened, and endangered species that are tracked by the West Virginia Natural Heritage Program. West Virginia also lies in an area of great species richness for rare taxa.  The whole state is important in terms of bio-diversity, and our wetlands are the jewels in the crown.

Elizabeth Byers, WVDNR Ecologist


How do we determine the extent of our wetland areas?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service uses remote sensing technologies through aerial photography to locate probably wetland areas. The various hues produced by these pictures allowed USFWS to establish signatures for the wetlands. The areas are generally outlined on a 1/24,000 scale USGS topographic map.

USEWS Wetland Geodatabase:


Can you delineate the wetland area?

Aerial view of Pine Swamp


Wetland Regulations

The Clean Water Act regulates the polluting of national waterways, which includes wetlands.

Section 404 Permit Requirements: Wetlands from 1/10th to ½ acre may need a dredge and fill permit; the US Army Corps of Engineers is the regulating entity for national permits.

State 401 Certifications: A permit is required to fill a wetland greater than ½ acre.


Wetlands Are Wonderful

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For more information go to: The next slide provides a variety of resources from the Internet for further reading.


Additional Resources